In April, I debated an atheist at the University of Florida, tussling over the question of whether religion is a problem for society. When he tried to paint a picture of religion’s deviousness through such events as the Inquisition, I turned to one of my favorite rebuttals. Yes, Christians are culpable for the mistakes of the past. Over 300 years, around 5,000 people were killed during the Spanish Inquisition. This is tragic, and we may certainly mourn those deaths and work as Christians to ensure this never happens again.
But compare this number to the 2.5 million killed by Pol Pot in Cambodia over three years. Like other Marxists, Pol Pot acted within an atheistic framework to reshape his nation as he wanted to see it. Atheists consistently try to paint Christianity as a force for evil in the West, yet they ignore the problems their own ideologies can cause.
This point always causes me to stop and remember why we at King’s remain committed to being a Christian college. Christianity affirms the dignity of life and is a strong force against the sinful impulses in our nature. When you take away the moral anchor, however, you can end up with a regime like Pol Pot’s—an atheist who had no moral scruples with using murder to achieve his ends.
If we are not grounding our ideas and our actions in the truths of Scripture, we will fail. If we are not training our students to think first and foremost about the renewal of creation, we will fail. I hope you agree, and as always, I am so glad that you are along with us on this journey!
Serving the King of King’s,
President, The King's College
The King's Debate Society's Successful Year
The King's Debate Society is completing its most successful year to date. Not only did its membership more than double, but those members went on to win more awards than the King's Debate Society has won in all previous years combined. Perhaps most meaningfully, individual members and the society as a whole have become an integrated part of the British Parliamentary debate league in the Northeast, hosting debate scrimmages for NYC universities, co-sponsoring workshops, and building friendships with fellow competitors and coaches from around the country.
This year, the King's Debate Society has had more competitors than available slots for debate tournaments, often arriving at debate tournaments with as many debaters as schools more than thirty times its size. This rapid growth comes with its challenges, and the student leadership has worked hard, alongside their newly hired coach, Katie Teubl, to train and prepare members for British Parliamentary debate. The British Parliamentary debate league is one of the oldest and most competitive leagues in the world. Four teams of two students compete in each debate round, practicing the complex art of building strategic coalitions while each defending their own positions. Debaters are given just fifteen minutes to prepare to debate about issues that range from the ethics of military intervention in the Middle East to the economic viability of raising America's debt ceiling.
The British Parliamentary league has grown rapidly in recent years and is now the largest international debate league: this year's national tournament in America hosted teams from Qatar, Venezuela, and China, along with hundreds of American teams and judges. Founders of the King's Debate Society Matthias Clock and Pam Dodge selected this league because they knew the depth of competition and international opportunities would provide the challenging atmosphere in which King's students thrive.
And King's students have not been disappointed. This past year, King's attended eight debate tournaments in the increasingly competitive Northeast division. During the Fall semester, King's debaters saw some success in advancing beyond preliminary rounds, but by the spring semester, the team had built their knowledge base and strengthened their competitive edge. Debate teams advanced past the preliminary rounds at three of the four spring tournaments, and Josiah Peterson and Burk Ohbayashi made history by being the first King's debate team to compete in a final round. They will represent King's at its first international tournament in Manila, Philippines this coming year.
If you were to find King's debaters in the hall between classes and ask why they put in the countless hours of research and practice, they most likely would not talk about winning a coveted trophy or besting the top teams – though they plan to do just that. Instead, they would say the outstanding feature of the King's Debate Society is the community that has been formed around their vision to become excellent and winsome advocates for truth in the marketplace of ideas.
“When it comes to any kind of league or association, what keeps people participating is community,” commented Joshua Linder, a first-year debater. “Excellence in British Parliamentary debate takes hard work and if the key relationships aren't present, people are less likely to invest in the format. Success should not be measured by the number and variety of medals given out, but by the number of people who learn and grow through the format. The King's Debate Society, if it keeps Christ at the center, will have something incredibly unique to bring to the table.”
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King's Alumni Works for State Majority Policy Office
Alumni of The King’s College are spread out across the country working in incredible jobs. Some stay in New York to work in finance
or media. Others head to their home states to work in government or education. Still others find unique opportunities in new places altogether. Kiley Humphries (’08), who came to King’s from Kansas, falls into the last category: she now works in the House Majority Policy Office for the Colorado State Legislature.
Following her graduation from King’s, Kiley worked for two years before accepting a fellowship at the John Jay Institute. Kiley’s fellowship at John Jay combined an academic residency with a professional externship, preparing her for leadership in public life.
“The overarching curriculum is studying law, theology, and politics,” Kiley said. After completing daily reading assignments and writing response papers, she continued, “we would present our papers, debate, yell at
each other, and dig into the issues. The work was rigorous, yet fascinating.”
Kiley’s studies at the Institute included political philosophy and theology readings, some of which are also found in the King’s curriculum. She said that while some students found it hard to integrate many different academic fields, her Politics, Philosophy, and Economics degree helped prepare her to integrate the subject matter and apply it to the policy questions of today.
She felt especially supported by the economics training she received at King’s. “This part of my education enabled me to have a more informed perspective on the policy issues that we talked about, especially when I could raise questions about the level of government involvement,” she said. “This is a very important lens, and one that we, as thinking Christians, ought to be able to look through.”
Following the academic residency, the Fellows spread out across the world to participate in an externship. Because she spent two summers working in Washington, DC, Kiley opted to work in state-level politics in Colorado. As a staff member of the policy office, she is getting to know the members of the legislature, the policy they discuss, and the committees where they make decisions.
Through this work, she has been able to see the value of political involvement. “In state-level politics, people think it’s like peewee politics,” she said. “But I’ve seen just how much state level politics affects the nuts and bolts of how city or county government works and why it matters. It’s a worthy exercise for a Christian and a thinker.”
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Students Examine Villainy as Part of Interregnum VII
Each spring, The King’s College holds its annual “Interregnum.” In Latin, the word interregnum means “the time between kings.” At King’s, it is a break from classes for a two-day event filled with speaking and writing competitions. This year’s theme for Interregnum was “Villainy,” and the College community read Crime and Punishment, Dostoyevsky’s classic psychological account of a villain. The competitions and evening lecture—run by a committee of students and judged by professors—illuminate the year’s theme. Past themes include Difficulty, Civilization, and Avarice.
The House of Susan B. Anthony became the first women’s house to win the Interregnum Cup.
Villainy might be simply defined as a manner of behaving wickedly. It is, however, used more often as a term of opprobrious address for one's opponent. Students spent much of their time discussing the underpinnings of this theme: of what evil is man really capable? Where is the separation between the villain from the vilified, the reality of evil from its perception? Is a truly objective villain possible outside of fiction?
“The events at Interregnum VII were great because we were able to step out of classes and put into action what we’ve learned in the classroom in a vibrant and competitive setting,” said Tim Wainwright (’12).
Dr. David Tubbs, assistant professor of politics, said, “This year's Interregnum was noteworthy for its broad student participation. Like other faculty members, I was impressed by the quality of the debates and other public-speaking competitions.”
In addition to the competitive portion of Interregnum, the College invites a prominent outside speaker to lecture on the theme each year. Past lecturers have included Father Richard John Neuhaus, Dr. Robert George and Dr. Stanley Hauerwas.
Dr. Anthony Esolen, professor of English at Providence College in Rhode Island, gave the Interregnum lecture this year. A contributing editor of Touchstone, Dr. Esolen has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy and written such books as Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of your Child and Ironies of Faith.
In his lecture, Dr. Esolen defined Villainy as the refusal to honor that which is worthy of reverence, especially when that thing is small, simple, or weak. He said that villains often dwell in cities because urban dwellers are more easily disconnected from community, which makes them more susceptible to overlooking the vulnerable. Drawing on examples from history and literature, he cautioned the student body to seek humility and to care actively for the small among them in order to avoid becoming villainous. He also shared how valuing children is necessary because today’s society especially undervalues children, rendering it villainous.
"Dr. Esolen’s lecture was a new angle on villainy, unlike the ones we’ve been discussing all year,” said Annie Clark (’12). “Instead of taking it as an equivocation of evil, he tied villainy to behaviors and thought patterns that everyone in the room could relate to. We felt as if villainy was something we had to be on our guard against instead of something that happened to other people. It was a great end to a year-long conversation.”
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Dr. David Tubbs, assistant professor of politics, spoke at a book discussion on April 12 sponsored by the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. The panel discussed Professor George Kateb’s Human Dignity, which is a secular defense of human dignity. “With graceful prose, George Kateb's Human Dignity tackles a series of large and difficult questions about the status of individuals, groups, and the human species,” Professor Tubbs said following the event. “Fair-minded readers of any political or philosophical orientation will profit from the book’s investigations.”
In “Liturgies of Learning,” Dr. Robert Jackson, associate professor of English and education, explains his integration of a four-fold liturgy into his courses. Literally defined as “the ordering of desires,” the liturgy follows four steps: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, and Benedictus. By following an educational liturgy, students are able to learn from a position of intellectual humility and, in so doing, explore greater truths. Jackson writes: “If we, as learners, confess our ignorance, discover the glory of the created order, and articulate our incomplete understanding, we may encounter a deeper Reality—one that lies beyond mere description of surface phenomena.” Click here to read the article in March’s Comment magazine.
Earlier this year, Ethan Campbell, assistant professor of English, published an article in the scholarly journal Fifteenth-Century. In “‘Be Ware of the Key’: Anticlerical Critique in the Play of the Sacrament,” he argues that that the Middle English Croxton Play of the Sacrament is a work of anticlerical critique, in the spirit of John Wyclif. But since the play also affirms the validity of the sacraments (which Wyclif's followers did not), it has to affirm the necessity of priests as a class of church officers, even as it simultaneously attacks them. So the play contains "a strong ironic tension in its critique of the priesthood," which leads to several otherwise baffling contradictions in the text.
Alissa Wilkinson, instructor of writing at King’s, wrote "Idols, Icons, and Facebook" for Comment magazine. The article discusses the classic distinction between an idol and an icon. An idol draws gazes to itself, finishing there. An icon, on the other hand, can reflect that gaze elsewhere. In Christian art, particularly, the icon provokes us “toward a greater vision of the divine, toward something beyond us that is also beyond our control or understanding.” Citing Colossians 1:15, she writes that “the ultimate icon is Christ.” She also extends this distinction to modern technology. Facebook, for example, can be used as a good icon (drawing friends deeper into each others’ personalities) or a bad idol (compelling people to change their identities). Click here for the article.
Wilkinson also wrote a point-counterpoint article in Books and Culture with Robert Joustra. The article looked at two recent books, Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know and What Matters? Economics for a Renewed Commonwealth, which focus on food politics and how society ought to respond to global agribusiness. To read this nuanced discussion on how Christians ought to care for the environment, click here.
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